Legal infrastructures: The role of citizenship in global migration and mobility law

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Christian Prener


Assistant Professor


European University Institute, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies


DKK 525,000




Internationalisation Fellowships


This project examines how citizenship shapes the legal infrastructures that govern how we, as humans, can move freely around the world. Where human mobility historically has been largely conditioned by geography, it is now to a much greater extent conditioned by a series of legal structures that are often tied to the colour of our passports. Everyone who travels across national borders is subject to a wide range of legal rules that to a large extent restrict how freely individuals can move around the world. As mobility rules such as visa rules or so-called carrier sanctions are often shaped by the specific nationality of the traveller, citizens from developing countries cannot simply board a plane and legally travel to the world's richer countries. Moreover, nationality laws play an increasing role of their own through e.g., ‘citizenship-by-investment programmes’, where citizenship in some EU countries can be acquired for the benefit of the mobility freedoms associated with an EU citizenship. Against this background, this project aims to improve our understanding of how citizenship shapes the legal infrastructure that underlie global mobility and migration.


Historically, human mobility has been a prerequisite for cultural, economic and human development and today mobility rules have direct impact on highly topical issues ranging from refugee flows to climate change. Yet, due to an entanglement of both international, regional and national legal regimes, the underlying forces that shape current patterns of migration and mobility on the global level are often unclear and poorly understood. To advance knowledge in the field of global mobility law, it is crucial with new research approaches that can uncover the interplay between the legal structures that to large extent govern human mobility today. Citizenship provides an exceptional and novel lens to study key complexities of human mobility and holds the potenital of unearthing new dimensions in the field of human mobility and migration at large.


This research project examines how citizenship shapes patterns of global mobility and migration through three cross-cutting work streams three: The first consists of an empirical mapping of how and where nationality laws interact with or determine specific mobility rules. This work will draw on empirical citizenship data from the Global Citizenship Observatory (GLOBALCIT) based at the Robert Schuman Centre, European University Institute (EUI) in Florence. Crossing citizenship data with existing variables in specific mobility rules, e.g., visa rules pertaining to specific regions and states, will provide a better understanding of the role of citizenship in shaping mobility structures and patterns of migration. Secondly, the project explores whether the legal status of citizenship as regulated in nationality laws act as a mobility-structure in itself. Over the past two decades, governments across the world have increasingly amended their nationality laws in order to either attract or deter migrants from traveling to or settling within their state borders. 'Citizenship by investment-programmes' for example offers the privilege of acquiring a citizenship in e.g., a European Member State, which in turn provides the right to travel freely to various destinations and to settle in another country, has become increasingly popular in recent years. Finally, the research aims to investigate the conditions under which socio-natural and socio-political events reconfigure nationality laws of Western states. Examining the interconnection between normative discourses on migration-related issues, such as climate change, terrorism, or asylum, and how it inspires legal changes in nationality laws, offers an opportunity to better understand how nationality laws are instrumentalised in response to ongoing discourses on the national, regional, and international level.

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